Hong Kong Protesters Demand Probe Into Chinese Dissident’s Death

Thousands of people rallied in Hong Kong today, demanding Chinese authorities investigate the death of blind Chinese dissident Li Wangyang.

Protesters, many dressed in black or holding white flowers and Li’s portraits, called for China’s government to re-assess the 1989 pro-democracy movement. The rally marched to the Chinese government’s liaison office, where there were scuffles with the police, television footage from i-Cable showed.

The march follows Hong Kong’s candlelight vigil on June 4 to mark the anniversary of the government crackdown on the 1989 pro-democracy movement in Tiananmen Square. Li was a labor rights activist who advocated independent unions in China.

About 25,000 attended today’s rally, Radio Television Hong Kong said in a report on its website, citing the organizers. The police estimated there were 3,600 protesters at the start on Chater Road, and 5,400 at the rally’s peak, according to Dominic Lam, a spokesman for the force.

Lee Cheuk-yan, chairman of the Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, an organizer of today’s rally, didn’t immediately return calls to his phone.

Prison Sentence

Li was initially sentenced to 11 years in prison for his participation in the 1989 pro-democracy movement, according to information posted on the website of Human Rights in China.

He lost his sight and hearing, and had trouble walking after being tortured in prison for refusal to admit guilt, the site said. He was sentenced to another 10 years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power” in 2001 for staging a hunger strike to protest his treatment in the prison, it added.

Released in May 2011, he was found dead in a hospital room in Shaoyang in the Chinese province of Hunan on June 6, hanging by a window with his feet still standing on the ground, the statement from Human Rights in China said, citing his brother-in-law Zhao Baozhu. His relatives have questioned the authorities’ description of the death as suicide.

The body of Li, 62, was cremated yesterday, Hong Kong’s English-language newspaper South China Morning Post reported today.

Protesters today chanted slogans calling Chinese authorities “a butcher government”. They also held banners demanding the government give people the right to vote.

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